Tue | Dec 1, 2020

Peter Tosh’s Heroes Day birthday a ‘national mystic’ - Call for Steppin Razor to be made national hero

Published:Monday | October 19, 2020 | 7:29 AMYasmine Peru/Senior Gleaner Writer
Peter Tosh
Peter Tosh
Peter Tosh
Peter Tosh
Peter Tosh
Peter Tosh

The fact that National Heroes Day 2020 falls on the same day as the birthday of reggae legend Peter Tosh is a coincidence which is certainly not lost on those in his inner circle, and they have translated that into a call for the ‘Steppin Razor’’s status to be upgraded to that of national hero. Tosh, who was awarded an Order of Merit by the Jamaican Government in 2012, would have turned 76 today.

Dr Michael Barnett, senior lecturer in the Department of Sociology and Psychology and Social Work, TheUniversity of the West Indies, Mona campus, is among those making this clarion call. “This year (2020) with Peter Tosh’s ‘earthday’ falling on National Heroes Day, it is something of a national mystic. I, along with others within the Peter Tosh Earthday Celebration Committee, feel that Peter Tosh, who presently holds the Order of Merit, should be considered for an upgrade to national hero status,” Barnett shared with The Gleaner. “I say this on the basis that Peter Tosh, along with others such as Bob Marley and Miss Lou), actually meets the criteria for national hero status.”

This echoes calls for reggae king Bob Marley to be made a national hero, but they have so far fallen on deaf ears. Barnett is seriously hoping that the authorities will contemplate putting the Tosh motion into action.

“We as fans, admirers and family of Peter Tosh are hoping that the powers that be consider this seriously, as Peter has rendered to Jamaica a service of a most distinguished nature. Through his musical message, ever since the ‘70s, he was one of the first to shout down the wicked system of apartheid in South Africa. He sounded the call for equal rights and justice in his song Equal Rights, effectively branding Jamaica as a nation that champions equal rights and justice all over the world,” Barnett expanded.

He pointed out that Tosh was an anticolonialism champion and, along with Bob Marley, helped to brand Jamaica, not just as a cultural superpower, but as a moral power and force for change in the world.

Peter Tosh was born Winston Hubert McIntosh, in Westmoreland in 1944. Along with Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer, he was one of the core members of the band The Wailing Wailers (1963–1976), after which he established himself as a successful solo artiste and a promoter of Rastafari.

Intro to larger audiences

In 1978, the Rolling Stones record label contracted Tosh and released the album Bush Doctor, which introduced Tosh to a larger audience. The album featured Rolling Stones frontmen Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, and the lead single – a cover version of The Temptations’ Don’t Look Back – was performed as a duet with Jagger. It made Tosh one of the best-known reggae artistes across the globe.

One of the most memorable Peter Tosh stories occurred during Bob Marley’s free One Love Peace Concert of 1978. Tosh lit a marijuana spliff and lectured about legalising cannabis, lambasting attending dignitaries Michael Manley and Edward Seaga for their failure to enact such a legislation.

Tosh was murdered at his house in Jamaica on September 11, 1987. His final LP, No Nuclear War, won a Grammy in 1987.

A virtual Peter Tosh programme is being produced for today. There will be rare footage of past Peter Tosh performances and interviews to be screened on the special Peter Tosh YouTube channel. Also, there will be a special Peter Tosh panel session organised by his daughter, Niambe Tosh, the head of the Peter Tosh estate, and some of her siblings.